143. Memorandum From Gary Sick of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Iran

[1 paragraph (1½ lines not declassified]

—We have just seen the first blink from the Iranian side. The “blink” is not the arrangement proposed to Waldheim, but the fact that Khomeini has for the first time apparently engaged himself in searching for a way out of the crisis. [2 lines not declassified]

—Whatever plan Ghotbzadeh may have discussed with Khomeini probably did not focus primarily on the United Nations as the key element. [5½ lines not declassified]

—[1 paragraph (7 lines not declassified]

[Page 375]

—Another possible channel [less than 1 line not declassified] is the PLO and Arafat. Arafat is expected to visit Tehran in the near future but has been waiting until he had some indication that his visit would result in something substantial.

—The “new plan” which was conveyed to Waldheim by Farhang was in fact nothing more than a clarification of what Waldheim had been told in Tehran. Specifically, it provides that a Commission of Enquiry be formed by the UN, that it travel to Iran for investigation of the Shah’s crimes, after hearings of several weeks it should return to the UN and report to the Security Council and/or the General Assembly. Following that, the SC or GA are to vote a resolution expressing the legitimacy of Iran’s grievances. At that point, Iran would be prepared to “start” releasing the hostages, before the resolution had been implemented. The only new element in all of this is the fact that Khomeini has apparently blessed it. However, the fact that Ghotbzadeh was unwilling to put it in writing may mean that Khomeini’s approval is less than absolute.

Despite the brave rhetoric in Iran, I believe they are beginning to feel the many pressures on them. Kurdestan is very close to declaring its independence, the tribal areas in the south are in turmoil, and the situation in Azerbaijan is assuming the proportions of a major revolt which is dangerously close to civil war. At the same time, Khomeini and others are probably much more troubled by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan than they are willing to show in public. The prospect of being branded an international outlaw by the UN is unattractive, and this has been made much more striking in the minds of those in Tehran recently by the series of messages they have received from Third World nations pleading with them to change their position.

In my view, the moment is coming soon when they will conclude that the hostages are a liability rather than a benefit. One possible signal to that effect was the visit of the students to Qom several days ago. There has been absolutely no mention of the results of that meeting in any public media in Iran, which suggests to me that the students and the Ayatollah were not entirely in agreement or that they could not establish a common plan for next steps.

I expect the real movement, when it comes, through some channel other than the United Nations. I think in the UN they are merely playing for time, trying to avoid imposition of sanctions. I suspect that the real bargaining—which may not be too distant—will be accomplished through the PLO or some other channel which is untainted.

I strongly believe we should press ahead with the vote on sanctions. If we start a process of delaying at every new report which emanates from Tehran, we will lose credibility, and our support will start fading. We could, however, proceed with the vote on the understanding that [Page 376] implementation will take some time and that continuing exploration of the “new” negotiating position can proceed in the interim. That would keep the pressure on Tehran while not losing what momentum we have left.

I do not think the Soviet veto is totally negative for us. We can—and should—attack it as an indication of Soviet interest in creating a series of compliant states on their southern border even if that requires gross violations of international law. In the Afghan case they used aggression. In the case of Iran, they are willing to ignore the rules governing immunity of diplomats, counter to the will of a clear majority of the nations on the Security Council.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Staff Material, Office File, Box 64, Outside the System File, Iran Non-Meetings Hostage Crisis 1/80–3/80. Top Secret; Codeword. A stamped notation at the bottom of the memorandum reads: “ZB has seen.”